A short review of Toshio Iwai's masterpiece for the Nintendo DS.

While the recent years brought a flood of art games, some artists produced them long before it was popular. Maybe because of their playful attitude towards media art and technology in general, maybe for other (cultural) reasons, Japan stands out as the origin of a great deal of art games. There, a lot of traditional media artists comprehend games as yet another medium to express themselves. Toshio Iwai is one of them. His work meanders between building instruments, toys, and traditional interactive video art. While his early pieces remind of Nam Jun Paik's manipulations of television and video devices - TV-Ring and Man-Machine No. 1-8 (both from 1989) are based on interacting with TV sets - another line of work he puts forth is digital games. Iwai's first game was the music-based shooter game Otocky, produced with ASCII Corporation for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987. Otocky is often regarded as one of the precursors of Rez, Tetsuya Mizuguchi's disturbing techno- music shooter. Nine years after Otocky, Toshio Iwai published his second music- game, SimTunes, with Maxis Software. SimTunes introduces so-called musical insects - small creatures that crawl on the playing board and produce sounds reacting to their environment. SimTunes is as much a composition tool as it is a game and a musical instrument. Some might refer to it as Active Score Music software (Pichlmair and Kayali, 2007). Another nine years later his latest music game arrived: Electroplankton, published by Nintendo for the Nintendo DS handheld console in April 2005. Electroplankton is a software conversion of some of Toshio Iwai's media art pieces, like ›Composition on the Table‹ (from 1998/99). It is a collection of ten musical toys, of ten musical instruments.

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